Budget cuts may force Loudoun County public school students to pay for bus rides

A Loudoun County Public Schools bus. (WJLA photo)

ASHBURN, Va. (WJLA) – Public school students in Loudoun County may soon have to pay to take the bus.

It’s all about money, with school board members saying they’re trying to save wherever they can. It is possible kids could have to use some kind of a debit card to ride the bus, but plenty of parents say that is going too far.

The big yellow bus and public schools usually go hand in hand.

“You kind of expect [transportation] to be provided,” said parent Michelle Tamburello.

But while a public education is required by law in Virginia, transportation is not. Some school board members in Loudoun County are floating the idea of charging students just to ride the bus.

Kate Bailey, a parent at Mill Run Elementary School in Ashburn, says this should not be an issue in one of the wealthiest counties in America.

“Loudoun County should be able to rearrange their budget somehow. If that’s a priority, to make that a priority, to get the kids to school,” she said.

“Transportation should be provided,” Tamburello added. “I know the costs have to come from somewhere.”

That, according to Loudoun County School Board Member Bill Fox, is the problem.

“I don’t want to charge for transportation,” he said. “I like the way it is now.”

But with Loudoun schools facing continued budget deficits--$38 million last year alone—Fox says something has to give. He and others on the board are asking state lawmakers in Richmond to give school boards across the Commonwealth the flexibility to charge for transportation during leaner times.

“If it’s between cutting out of the classroom and cutting from transportation services, I’d rather cut from transportation,” Fox said.

Parent Anne Marie Randolph is ready to hop on board.

“It sounds innovative,” she said. “Anything that keeps money in the classrooms and keeps money towards learning, I would be open to hearing about.”

No word yet on how much rides would cost or how much the plan could save the county.

School board members are also looking at expanding kindergarten from half day to full day for all students, another issue that is sure to create plenty of debate between parents and educators.

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